NCSLI 2014: Measurement Science and the Environment
The increasing demands for measurements to quantify the state of the environment and the environmental performance of new technologies pose interesting challenges for measurement science. Such measurements are typically required at lower levels, over longer timescales and covering wider areas than are generally required in other fields of measurement science.
When applying measurement science to the environment, the basic principles are the same as in other fields. In order for environmental data to be traceable to the SI, it must have the following traits:
- Stability over time, so that long-term trends can be evaluated;
- comparability, so that data acquired by different laboratories can be compared consistently; and
- coherence, so that measurements made against different references and using different methods will be equivalent.
The nature of the challenges in applying measurement science to the environment also dictates engagement with new stakeholder communities. These include laboratories that have monitored the atmosphere and oceans very successfully for decades. In many cases, these laboratories have developed their own methods of producing stable and comparable measurements, although their measurements are generally not truly coherent. The increasing requirement for environmental data and monitoring brings the opportunity to demonstrate that measurements traceable to the SI can be developed, and that our new environmental goals may be met in a cost-effective and robust way.